I am not a lover of carrots. The possible result of decades of limp carrot coins and five hundred too many vegetable trays, I’m just not a huge fan. They seem to lack something: you expect something more from a bright orange vegetable than their often bland, distantly soapy flavor. Roasting them in recent years adds something I like, but still doesn’t push them into “yeah, I want that right now” territory.
As it turns out, all carrots need is vinegar and a little sweetness to turn them into an irresistible treat. I learned this about a year ago during recipe development for my first Feast Eats recipe series (the tailgate-centric one) when I made Quick-Pickled Vegetables to throw in tacos. They were so fantastic that my fridge hasn’t been without a batch or two of them since, and we use them on burgers, tacos, salads, and all sorts of other things. If you like a sour add to things, I suggest you make them right now using my super easy recipe which lives right over here.
I haven’t actively searched for another pickle-y carrot things since – no need, really – but then I happened upon this gem out of The New Persian Kitchen book I’ve been obsessing over lately. Just like the watermelon cucumber salad, it’s minutes from prep to table and it’s delightfully crisp and cool. There’s an active sourness to id that grabs you, but it’s mellowed by a hit of honey; the toasted sesame and cilantro smack you right in the taste buds, and the whole thing is brilliantly satisfying. I’d eat this in the dead of winter because it’s just so bright, but in the summer? Chilled perfection on a plate next to anything you want to grill up. I love it with all my heart.
Adapted from The New Persian Kitchen by Louisa Shafia. I reduced the sesame seeds on this one: the book calls for an entire 1/2 cup and wow, is that a ton of sesame for the quantity of carrots we’re working with here, in my opinion.
Vinegary Carrot Ribbon Salad with Sesame + Cilantro
Serves | 4 to 6 |
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds (black or white; i do a half and half for drama)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
- 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 Tbsp honey (to taste, really: if you want a little more, go for it)
- 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 tsp chili flake
- kosher salt
- 2 lbs organic carrots, scrubbed and peeled with a standard vegetable peeler into thin ribbons (or use your mandoline, Braveheart, but there’s no need to here)
- 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, firmly packed
Add sesame seeds to a cold stainless steel skillet and turn heat to medium. Toast seeds, stirring constantly and flipping seeds until they are evenly toasted and golden; transfer to plate to cool to room temperature.
In a small bowl (or glass jar – an 8 oz jam or canning jar will do nicely here), add garlic, both vinegars, honey, sesame oil, chili flakes, and 1 tsp kosher salt; whisk to blend or screw on lid and shake, shake shake.
In a large bowl, toss carrot ribbons with dressing: a little goes a long way here, so add it and don’t worry about it. Add as much cilantro as you’d like, toss, check seasoning, add more cilantro if you feel like it. Serve immediately garnished with a bit more cilantro. Boom, delicious.